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|Author||Chris Van Allsburg|
|Illustrator||Chris Van Allsburg|
|Cover artist||Chris Van Allsburg|
|Genre||Children's literature, science fiction|
|Published||2002 (Houghton Mifflin)|
|LC Class||PZ7.V266 Zat 2002|
|Preceded by||Bad Day at Riverbend|
Zathura is an illustrated children's book by the American author Chris Van Allsburg as well as the title of a 2005 film based on the book. Two boys are drawn into an intergalactic adventure when their house is magically hurled through space. The book is a sequel to Jumanji, another illustrated book by Van Allsburg, and references are made, both visual and textual, to Jumanji.
As Zathura starts, the parents of two brothers, Walter and Danny Budwing, are leaving, but Walter and Danny don't get along with each other. Danny wants to play catch, while Walter wants to watch T.V. Danny tosses Walter a baseball which hits him on the head. Walter then chases Danny through the house and catches him in the park across the street from their house, where they find a board game called Jumanji: A Jungle Adventure. Danny brings the game home, where he then loses interest in playing it. Danny then finds another board game called Zathura: A Space Adventure. Danny starts playing Zathura, then he gets a card that says, "Meteor shower, take evasive action." Immediately, a meteor shower occurs. Danny and Walter soon realize the game sent them into outer space. The brothers start playing the game Zathura, since the game won't take them home unless they finish it. Soon, Walter loses his gravity and Danny saves him from disappearing into space. When Walter takes his turn, a defective robot chases him through the house. When Danny takes his turn, he gets close to a planet called Tsouris 3 and gets shorter and wider. Soon, a Zorgon ship appears and Zorgons board their house. The robot chases the Zorgons away as Walter takes his turn and gets sucked into a black hole to go back in time. Walter transports back to the time when he catches Danny in the park. Danny finds Jumanji and looks at it, and is about to take it home, but Walter grabs the game and shoves it into the trash, implying that he has played the game before. Finally, the story ends with Walter's offering to play catch and the two brothers playing catch together.
Zathura, like Jumanji, is an adventure game that sucks the players in and creates actual events when a card signals them. As the game starts, the immediate area is transported in space (usually the housing of the players), which then requires the players to complete the game in order to return to Earth. However, unlike actual space, they have breathing air and their immediate playing area has its own gravity. Zathura, as revealed in the end, is actually a huge black hole that appears when the players win, and it sucks out the playing field, reverting the events of the game.
Unlike Jumanji, it's not played with dice, but rather by simply pushing the button, and the screen will show the number, automatically moving the figure (a spaceship) across the fixed structure. A key is required to be flipped over every time before the button can be pushed. Also, it doesn't have a screen which shows the turn's effect, but rather summons a card out which reads the effect.
Game cards in the film
- You pass too close to Tsouris-3, enter gravity field - When this card was drawn, the house passed by Tsouris-3, a lava covered planet with a powerful gravity field which pulled unstable bricks and parts of the roof on the planet's surface. It was strong enough to pull both boys, with Walter smashing into the front door, and Danny "falling" on the window. It was so powerful that even the robot had to glue himself in the walls to keep himself stable. The card's effect lasts for a few minutes.
- Caught cheating, automatic ejection - This card is drawn when a player tries to cheat his way into winning. When Walter notices that Danny was ahead of him, while he was supposed to be ahead of him, he pulled Danny's lever behind him. However, when he took his turn, the machine wouldn't stop spinning numbers and instead pushed the card out. Walter was puzzled about him "cheating" and he was sucked out of the room, by barely managing holding onto the hole in the roof. The astronaut saved him by taking his jet propulsion machine and bringing him back to the house. The game resumed and he was allowed to continue playing.
- Rescue stranded astronaut - This card summons the astronaut in the house. While he was not a player, the astronaut stated that he used to play and that he "wished" his brother to never exist. However, it caused him to be stranded. However, when his "brother" was revealed to be Danny, and his name to be Walter, it is heavily implied that he is not a real person, but rather a manifestation of the game which serves as a lesson for the players to learn how to cooperate.
- You are visited by Zorgons - This card summons a reptilian alien species called Zorgons, who are known for their endless hunger and wild attraction to heat. According to the astronaut, they are flying over the galaxy and "looking for something to burn up", and they already incinerated their own planet. This suggest that they are nomadic species. They travel in their small ships which are implied to run on heat, and they travel alone, with no more than one ship in group. They are extremely attracted to any heat source and can easily detect it, which is why the astronaut "hid" the house by turning off all electrical appliances and shut down the thermostat. When summoned, they stay in the game until it ends.
- Your robot is defective - This card summons a large, 7 feet tall metal robot with claws, who is hostile against the player who summoned him. He usually appears in a small form and then expands to his full size. He usually has claws as his hands, but can pull out a circular saw, which he used to try to saw off Walter's feet and to free himself when his arm got stuck in rubble. He can be temporarily disabled, but he has a small bird-like robot that repairs him if he is damaged. He can only be defeated by the "Reprogram" card if it's summoned: If you pull the card out and show it to him, he will revert his original programming and leave the house (and if Zorgons are already summoned he will turn hostile against them).
- Reprogram - If a robot was summoned, this card allows the player to reprogram the robot, causing him to leave and attack the Zorgons.
- Meteor shower, take evasive action - This card was first pulled out and it started the game, but it is unknown if this is the first card that is summoned as the game starts. The game causes a meteor shower, consisting of pellet-sized meteors breaching the room in which the game is played in. The meteor shower lasts for a minute, and ends with a large human-sized meteor striking the room.
- You are promoted to Fleet admiral, move ahead four spaces* - This card allows the player to go ahead extra four spaces.
- Shooting star; make a wish as it passes - This golden card, when summoned, causes a large, white shooting star to pass next to the house. During it, the player can make any wish he wants (it's unknown if the game ends if the player wishes for it). However, if a player wishes for a specific object, it will disappear after the game ends. Walter got the card twice; he first used it to get a football signed by Brett Favre (which disappeared after the game), and second time for the astronaut to get his brother back.
- Would you like to swing on a star? Move ahead nine spaces - If a player lands on the spot precisely nine spaces before the end of the game, this card will be summoned, and it will transport it to the ending spot.
- Hit time warp, go back 3 spaces, repeat last turn - This card forces the player to go back three spaces and repeat the turn's effect. This move allowed Walter to summon the wishing star effect again.
- Game over, thank you for playing* - When a player ends the game, the ball in the center with the labeled Z in it will start spinning and shape as a hole before sparkling out and landing back, and this card will be summoned. When the card is summoned, a huge black hole sucks the players (and if summoned, Zorgons too), and ends the game.